Prince Ali pushes FIFA bid after rival Platini is questioned

The Jordanian prince is Platini’s main rival in a February election to replace Sepp Blatter

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A day after UEFA President Michel Platini was questioned by Swiss authorities over a FIFA payment, presidential election rival Prince Ali bin al-Hussein on Saturday touted himself as the safe choice to rid the governing body of corruption.

The Jordanian prince is Platini’s main rival in a February election to replace Sepp Blatter, who became a formal subject of a criminal investigation into football corruption on Friday. Blatter was questioned over a 2011 “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs (about $2 million) to Platini that was supposedly for work carried out at least nine years earlier.

Platini, who was questioned as a witness, denies wrongdoing. However, if he is implicated in the probe surrounding Blatter it could benefit Prince Ali’s chances of winning the Feb. 26 poll.

“The need for new leadership that can restore the credibility of FIFA has never been more apparent,” Prince Ali said in a statement. “We cannot change the past, but we can have a future where FIFA member associations are able to focus on football rather than worrying about the next scandal or criminal investigation involving FIFA leadership.”

A rift has grown between Platini and Prince Ali since the UEFA president backed the Jordanian federation chief’s failed bid to unseat Blatter in May.

Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term despite close allies being indicted days earlier as part of a U.S. investigation into bribery and fraud in football. Four days later, the 79-year-old president hastily announced plans to quit.

Now FIFA must decide whether to suspend Blatter, as it did with his right-hand man, Secretary General Jerome Valcke, after he was implicated in a scheme to sell tickets for the 2014 World Cup on the black market.

At the same time, FIFA is trying to rush through reforms to its governance in a bid to regain the confidence of the football world.

“We have to accept that changing FIFA is not a matter of choice; it has already changed, shaken to its very core by the scandals that have decimated our governing body and cast a cloud over the entire organization,” Prince Ali said. “We have a duty to use our expertise, our experience, and our knowledge to lift that cloud by taking action to demonstrate that FIFA is worthy of the sport it oversees.”

The prince denounced Platini as “not good for FIFA” after the Frenchman launched his campaign in July, but he avoided mentioning the UEFA president by name in Saturday’s statement.

“We must now come together and work to restore FIFA’s credibility and reputation by bringing about the change that is so clearly needed,” the prince said.

The prince only served on the FIFA executive committee from 2011 to 2015, while Platini has had a seat on the body since 2002 and led the European body since 2007.

The payment being looked into by the Swiss authorities relates to work between January 1999 and June 2002. Platini said he told authorities that it was for work “carried out under a contract with FIFA” but he did not explain in a statement late Friday why he only received the payment in February 2011. Later that year he backed Blatter for re-election after deciding not to challenge the incumbent.

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